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Michael g. Hirschfeld portrait

Good evening.  And welcome again to Kent School.  Mrs. Hirschfeld and I enjoyed meeting many of you and your parents today and earlier this week. It is great to be with you in this most sacred space.  I am confident you will find in your one, two, three or four years at Kent, whether you are a Christian or a religious person of any faith or a person of no faith at all, that St. Joseph’s Chapel is the heart of the School. It is most appropriate that your Kent School journey begins here.

Knowing that you have had a long and likely emotional day, I will be brief.  I want to share two pieces of advice.

It was not so long ago, in fact it was just three years ago, when I found myself in a situation very similar to yours. I was a new student in a Cambridge University program that brought nine educators from around the world together to study educational leadership from very different perspectives. I was the oldest student in the program (by decades) and my fellow students had achieved remarkable things in the field of education in their relatively short careers—for example, one started Teach for India (India’s version of Teach for America), another helped reform rural education in Brazil, another founded a school in Thailand, and another worked for the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization. Needless to say, it was an impressive group of thirty- and forty-something-year-old educational leaders. As our orientation to the program began, I could not help but think that the University had made a mistake in admitting me to the program. What would I, the head of a relatively small U.S. boarding school, contribute to the group?

There is a phrase that describes this kind of anxiety—imposter syndrome. It is a feeling that you are out of place and unworthy. I mention my experience with imposter syndrome because there may be a time in the coming days or weeks when you experience a “what am I doing here?” moment. You may have already had such a moment. To some extent this is natural, but I want to tell you tonight that this feeling is not grounded in reality. 

Mrs. Ober and the entire admissions team can attest to this fact—that you are here not only because of their belief that you will benefit from the experience of living in the Kent School community and all of the opportunities that will be available to you here, but also, and more important in my view, because of their belief, that you will make this school better simply by being present in it. My expectation for all 160 or so of you is that you share your gifts with the community generously and immediately.  My first piece of advice is echoed in the reading that Hudson/Ayla just read—do not hide your light, share it. Being yourself is all that is required of you, nothing more, nothing less.  Just be yourself.

My second piece of advice is a corollary to my first piece of advice—recognize early that your teachers, your advisor, your dorm parents, your coaches—every member of the faculty is here to support you as is every member of the Senior Council, KPOP leaders, and Community Life Stewards. Concerning student leaders, they have spent a good deal of time thinking about how to support you. Use them. They are very eager to help you.

In nine, 18, 27, or 36 months, you will gather in this space with your entire class on the eve of your graduation from Kent School and I will ask you to reflect on your time here. Between now and then lies a great adventure. Like my faculty colleagues, I look forward to supporting you in your Kent adventure. I guarantee you it will be fun.

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